Posted by: cornvillenutmeg | August 30, 2015

Early Start Times Soon a Thing of the Past

I’m taking a break from the memoir writing I’ve been doing to bring you exciting news about a coming change for high schools across the nation.  Also, I’m stuck on the piece on which I have been laboring.

     In a book which I hope one day to publish, I write about a young man named Ben Smilowitz. In 1996, Ben was fifteen years old and already an activist. The Hartford Courant had written an article about Ben and a group of students he led who were taking on the West Hartford Board of Education. What the group objected to was the board’s plan to move the high school’s start time from 7:40 to 7:30 a.m. Their efforts, while not then or yet successful in West Hartford, did draw public attention to an issue that was only beginning to be widely discussed: sleep and teenagers.

The article piqued my interest because I had only just been to a workshop about recent research into and study of teenagers’ sleep needs and habits. Virtually all studies suggested or recommended a significant revision of the high school day with classes beginning no earlier than 8:30, and as late as 9:00 or 9:30 if at all possible. I won’t go into the largely Luddite arguments put forth against such a change, for my purpose here is only to announce that the days of early high school start times are numbered. And for that favor you may thank the NCAA.

In The Wall Street Journal, Jonathan Clegg wrote:
     College coaches have long known about the benefits of a well-rested team. A 2010 study by Stanford University’s Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine found that players on the Cardinal football team who attempted to sleep for 10 hours per night saw improvements in their 20-yard shuttle and 40-yard dash times. They also reported improvements to their daytime energy levels and mood and reduced daytime fatigue.

     There are signs that college football is now waking up to a problem that has long perplexed parents, teachers and academics across the country: How to manage the bizarre sleeping patterns of college students today. (WSJ, Aug.20, 2015, Clegg, Jonathan, “College Football Wakes Up to a New Statistic: Sleep)

Anyone even noddingly acquainted with local high schools knows that of the handful of news items one might find about them and their students, the majority will be about their sport teams. Here in Sedona, our local paper, the The Red Rock News, is published three times a week, and three times a week I can catch up on the doings of the fall teams of the Red Rock High School Scorpions: football, soccer, volleyball, tennis, and cross-country. From pre-season practices through post-season tournaments, I will be abreast of their successes, failures, and statistics, with not a small dose of human interest stories thrown in. Soon, that news promises to be even more exciting because for the first time in high school sports history, the student athletes will be getting enough sleep.

     How do I know? Because if the NCAA supports the idea, how far behind will the high schools be? Not far, I think. For evidence of how similar high school sports and NCAA sports can be, tune in to ESPN next Friday and watch the featured high school football games.

Keep your eye out for the petitions to delay the start times. They’ll be coming just as fast as the Booster Clubs can get them organized.


  1. My granddaughter starts her Performing Arts HS at 9:15 in Charlotte.

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